What Does A College Rapist Look Like?

Two weeks ago, I woke up to find an inbox full of emails about a rape apologist op-ed published in my college newspaper, The Daily Princetonian. The author argued, basically, that women should be held equally responsible in situations where drunk, nonconsensual sex occurs, and shouldn’t be able to accuse their partners of rape. The op-ed sparked a controversy on campus that resulted in the publication of two subsequent op-eds, dealing with the issue of what consent means.

In conversations with people over the next week, I heard this argument many times: “What happens when two people have drunk sex, neither of them consent, and the next morning, the woman wants to accuse her partner of rape?” Despite the heteronormative assumptions here (we seem to think that rape only occurs between a man and a woman), I think the real problem is that we assume that this is the way that most rape accusations occur.

But psychologist David Lisak says that this is actually a dangerously wrong assumption. Lisak researches the rapists who haven’t been caught, people he calls “undetected rapists.” These are men who have committed sexual assault, but have never been charged or convicted.

Joseph Shapiro of NPR reports: “[Lisak] found them by, over a 20-year period, asking some 2,000 men in college questions like this: “Have you ever had sexual intercourse with someone, even though they did not want to, because they were too intoxicated [on alcohol or drugs] to resist your sexual advances?” Or: “Have you ever had sexual intercourse with an adult when they didn’t want to because you used physical force [twisting their arm, holding them down, etc.] if they didn’t cooperate?”

About 1 in 16 men answered “yes” to these or similar questions. That’s just over 6 percent. That means a staggering amount of undocumented sexual assault on college campuses. And we’re not talking mistakes or misconstrued intentions, we’re talking about deliberate sexual assault. Pretty terrifying, right?

It gets scarier. Lisak says that it was actually pretty easy to get these men to talk, even though they’re admitting to having committed egregious crimes. “They are very forthcoming,” he says. “In fact, they are eager to talk about their experiences. They’re quite narcissistic as a group — the offenders — and they view this as an opportunity, essentially, to brag.”

Lisak found that many students who commit rape are serial rapists. On college campuses, repeat predators account for 9 out of every 10 rapes. And they look for the most vulnerable women on campus – freshmen women. These men, Lisak says, don’t think of themselves as rapists. They don’t use the weapons usually associated with rape. Instead, they use alcohol.

This shows that when we talk about rape on college campuses, we are having the wrong conversation. Most of the sexual assault that occurs is unreported, because women are afraid to speak up. They’re told that what happened to them isn’t rape. But the fact is, the vast majority of people who commit rape do it on purpose.  It’s not a question of good intentions and misunderstanding, it’s premeditated assault.  And the only way we can begin to stop sexual assault on college campuses is by recognizing this, and refusing to apologize for rape or blame the victim.

Photo from the U.S. Army's website.


Bea W.
Bea W.5 years ago

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could say, "no sex while drinking alcohol"?

Ed O.

Elaine wrote:

Rape is not only inflicted using brute force as coercion. Rape is ANY type of coerced sex. When manipulated and influenced by coercion, a woman can not consent.

According to the Random House Dictionary, “coercion” is 1. “To compel by force and intimidation, especially without regard for the other person’s individual desire or volition. 2. To dominate or control, especially be exploiting fear, anxiety, etc.”

“Consent” is defined as: “compliance or *approval* of what is done or proposed by another.” Thus, consent can’t be given when one is coerced in any way, such as threat of bodily injury, blackmail, and economic threats, (getting fired), etc.

Granting consent requires a healthy adult mind unaffected by drugs, alcohol, mental illness (including post traumatic stress disorder) and any type of *spiritual threats*, such as god’s punishment, threats of hell etc.

Coerced sex using fear of god is rape.

Child molestation is rape because children’s minds haven’t matured. Men commit 98% of incest and child molestation (Bureau of Justice Statistics).

Having sex with a woman impaired by mental illness is rape. Andrea Yates was insane and hallucinating when she killed her five children. However, she was initially sent to jail instead of a mental hospital. Her friend told Andrea’s husband to get Andrea psychiatric help. Instead, he continued having sex with her, inflicting a fifth ch

Monica M.
Past Member 6 years ago

I think that the only thing that is still sad about these articles is that they are calling these women "plus sized", when in actuality, this is the average size of women in the U.S.. But it is wonderful that people are starting to realize that there are beautiful women out there that are not a size 2.

Celebrities Nude

Jose M. C.
JOSE M. C.6 years ago

Just to be clear, this commentary is in no way an attempt to blame victims or detract from the very real guilt of sexual offenders....

The youtube video titled "March of Shame," was intended as a work of parody (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4MM3KkF5urY)

Unfortunately, it points out a fact that even this article seems to overlook. How many drunken one-night stands would have been consensual without the intoxication? If you factor that in, then perhaps far more than 1 in 16 college men fit the definition of a rapist. Our social culture frequently encourages such irresponsible and risky behavior, all under the excuse that youth is a time for experimentation and discovery. I want to laugh whenever I see a commercial for an alcoholic drink with the hastily added suggestion that you "drink responsibly." Imagine if college students really paid attention to that. There would be far fewer victims falling prey to sexual abuse. Normal, sensible people would not turn into predators who carelessly take advantage of others just because their pickled sense of judgment tells them its "okay."

Morgan G.
Morgan Getham6 years ago

For more on the story, by the way, there's a recent article (December, 2009) from Washington at

Morgan G.
Morgan Getham6 years ago

And as far as drink goes, I suspect that a lot of times if two people are drunk, and you had an object video of the entire proceedings and reviewed it, in most cases it would NOT show anything even remotely non-consensual about the event.

One or both of them may regret it LATER, but that does NOT make it non-consensual at the time. "Retroactive rape" cannot be a crime.

Morgan G.
Morgan Getham6 years ago

As I said earlier, consent isn't "real" unless it can be withdrawn at any time. In that, the BDSM community is light-years ahead of most of the rest of the world. Most of the folk of that persuasion would not THINK of playing without a "safe word," nor would anyone violate what that implies. If someone invokes that safe word AT ANY TIME, everything in the scene comes to an immediate halt, no matter what. Yes, sometimes it's really tough. But that's part of the contract. That's part of the trust that allows one person to transfer total power to another in a consensual exchange like that.

David B.
David B.6 years ago

sorry i don't give a damm if the woman is laying nude on the bed and smiling at the guy. if she says no then that means the guy should stop , period. and if you don't then your a rapist , plain and simple. and deserve the full punishment of law. and the punishment for rape as i see it ? hang the rapist upside down buy his heels , cut off his penis and tests , and stuff them in his mouth,and then gut him and let him bleed out.,then throw the body in a lime pit.

Susan S.
Susan S.6 years ago

The worst offenders are those who use date rape drugs because they are pre-meditated. Yuck! It is sad that more women don't report rape because they get away with it scot free.

Susan S.
Susan S.6 years ago

Theworstarethosewhointentionally use date rape drugs. Yuck...